Sale Sharks 7-45 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors produced an attacking clinic in their final Heineken Champions Cup pool match of 2019/20, running in six of the best in a 45-7 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell.
Dave Rennie’s side were clinical from start to finish to record a vital bonus-point victory over their hosts, in a result roared to the rafters by the travelling Warrior Nation.
From the opening whistle, it was clear that the Warriors had one clear goal in their mind. It took two minutes for Rennie’s men to make their mark on proceedings; a burst down the wing from van der Merwe took the Warriors to within striking distance, before the returning Nakarawa crashed over from short range to send the Warrior Nation into delirium. It was an opening that could barely have been better scripted by Hollywood, Adam Hastings converting for a 7-0 lead.
The visitors had hit their straps early, and showed no signs of letting up in their pursuit of a crucial victory. Ali Price’s speed and intelligence around the breakdown was keeping the Sharks defence on their toes, whilst Jonny Gray was following the lead of Nakarawa in keeping the ball alive at every opportunity.
With the attacking intent all coming from the Warriors, the second try arrived on 12 minutes. After Jono Ross was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous hit on Scott Cummings, the Glasgow pack went to work. A rolling maul close to the Sale try-line was halted illegally, but there was to be no halting Fraser Brown as he powered through an attempted tackle to touch down. Hastings added the extra two points, and the Warriors led 14-0.
The hosts began to gain a foothold in the match, as only a superb last-ditch defensive effort from Kyle Steyn and Huw Jones denied Marland Yarde. Yet the Warriors were in no mood to be denied under the floodlights, crossing for their third score on the half-hour mark. With the forwards piling on the pressure, van der Merwe burst through a gap that only he could see, Hastings converting the Canadian’s try for a 21-0 lead.
Whilst the hosts finished the half the stronger, there was to be no quarter given by the Warriors. Despite a yellow card for Nakarawa, the Glasgow defence held firm to keep the hosts scoreless at the interval.
With a commanding lead at the break, the next task for Rennie’s side was to secure the potentially crucial bonus-point. On 47 minutes, the all-important fourth try duly arrived. After an overthrown lineout from the Sharks had forced the hosts to concede a penalty, a quick tap from Price allowed Sam Johnson to glide over on an outside arc to delight the travelling Glasgow supporters. Hastings added the extras for good measure, and the Warriors had a 28-0 lead as Nakarawa returned to the field.
Even with the bonus-point secured, Glasgow continued to attack with aplomb. Glenn Bryce and van der Merwe each were prominent in the wide channels, whilst Hastings was causing havoc with ball in hand.
The home side eventually got on the board on 56 minutes, with a score sparked by an electrifying break from Denny Solomona. The former rugby league man regathered his own chip ahead only to lose his footing inside the Glasgow 22, but Jake Cooper-Woolley made sure that the field position would on this occasion yield a score for the men in white. Tom Curtis converted, giving the home fans something to cheer on a brisk January evening.
Undeterred, the Glasgow fans were soon in full voice once more. Having extended their lead with a well-struck Hastings penalty from 45 metres, try number five swiftly followed. Jones and Bryce’s identification of an overlap in Sale territory saw Matawalu charge for the line, only to be felled just a couple of metres short. Instead, it was Jonny Gray who was on hand to finish the job, Hastings converting for a 38-7 lead with 15 minutes to play.
The Warrior Nation were in dreamland, and it could have been even better were it not for the intervention of the TMO. A Gray break on halfway and some excellent supporting work from Georges Horne and Turner took the Warriors into the Sale 22, before Jones applied the finishing touch under the uprights. A closer look revealed that Gray had picked up the ball from an offside position however, and the score was quickly chalked off.
Just moments later, it was Matawalu’s turn to be denied. Hastings picked off a Sale pass in midfield and set off in search of the try-line, before prodding a grubber kick ahead. The Fijian was a fingertip away from touching down, the ball agonisingly rolling just behind his reach in the in-goal area.
There was to be a final flourish, though, and what a flourish it was. Taking a short ball from Hastings, Turner switched on the afterburners from 35 metres before rounding the full-back for a score to savour. The conversion made it 45-7 and the bonus-point victory was complete, sending the Warrior Nation home singing from another European highlight.